UOWN: Developing Well

There’s a better way to develop and manage property than current conventional approaches to the renter economy. Here at UOWN, we’re pioneering positive, democratic ownership and investment, and we’re excited about how our work can align with other progressive property projects around Yorkshire.

By Sam Davies6/12/20

Here at UOWN we’re growing strongly. Our property portfolio is developing nicely, we’re attracting ever-more investors enthused by our vision. After our initial focus on Leeds we’re now proactively moving into other geographic locations, and we’ve got big ambitions: we aim to become the leading property crowdfunding platform for the UK within the next five years.

To us, this about more than building a strong business. We’re on a mission. We believe that we can help to deeply democratise the way that our shared society invests in property and saves for the future.

After all, it’s an open secret that our housing stock isn’t increasing at the pace we all need it to. Demand is outstripping supply. Here in the north, this problem is becoming ever-more acute. The National Housing Association recently published its 2016/2017 Home Truths report which makes for an interesting but disturbing short read. In Yorkshire alone, 37,000 less new homes were built between 2011 and 2015 than the region required. That includes 7,000 too few homes for Leeds and Sheffield.

With plenty of demand, and too little supply, comes opportunity. The conventional rentier economy is booming. Rents are high, 9 out of 10 renters can’t afford to save enough to put towards the cost of owning their own property. Property developers and investors are enjoying a bonanza time, even though home ownership has fallen to its lowest for thirty years. So, let’s be honest, the more conventional end of the property investment isn’t a force for good. Instead of enabling property to be a shared resource for all of us, it’s concentrating society’s most important asset base into the hands of a fortunate few. That’s not sustainable in the long term, and it’s not the right thing to do, either. The trick for the future will be to ensure that we can mitigate the iniquities of the conventional property market, and give everyone a chance to secure their savings in bricks and mortar. We need an approach which enables everyone to benefit. That’s what UOWN is about.

Other positive approaches to property have a role to play, too. UOWN is fortunate to be part of a strong ecosystem of regional property organisations which are making great contributions to improving the landscape for all of us.

For example, there are over 26,000 empty homes around our region, and 203,596 empty homes for England at the last count. If we compare those numbers with Yorkshire’s house-building shortfall, we can see that good-quality reconditioning of some of our old housing stock has the potential to make a big dent in the current housing shortage. Latch has been doing something about that for our city since 1989, while Leeds Empties has been making a broader contribution since 2013.

Similarly, Lilac and Leeds Community Homes are at the cutting edge of building good homes for our local communities. Both prioritise shared ownership, affordability, build quality, and environmentally sustainable methods, and they’re gaining strong recognition and support for their positive work. Ecological low-impact living and people-powered development show the power of democratic approaches to property. And Leeds-based developer Citu sets the pace for progressive place-making with their Greenhouse development; a modern, zero-carbon complex in the heart of the city, it’s an impressive example of how to build well.

Projects like these mean more housing stock, better homes, and more opportunities for investment. When we tie all of this together in the right way, we can transform how we own and manage property.

Property crowdfunding can be the force for change that we all need. And our goal here at UOWN is to stand up for what our investors and tenants really need, to be the best for society, and the most democratic amongst the rapidly developing landscape of property crowd investment companies.

As part of a range of linked approaches to developing property well for the future, we can nudge the ‘big picture’ away from inequality and unfairness. Now’s the time to develop a property market that’s truly fit for the 21st century.

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UOWN is a trading name of U Own Exchange Limited. UOWN, 3rd Floor, Northgate, 118 North Street, Leeds, LS2 7PN

House prices can fall as well as rise and you may not get back all of the money you invest. Rates of return quoted on our website are estimates only and are not guaranteed. Investments are not protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

For more details please see our in-depth risk statement.